Cole Palmer proving to be Chelsea’s most impactful summer signing
Chelsea have now scored more goals in their last two league matches than they had their previous six. Back-to-back wins at Fulham and Burnley have certainly lifted the mood at Stamford Bridge following a mixed start to Mauricio Pochettino’s reign. The Blues kicked off the season with just one league win in six, that coming against Premier League debutants Luton. It was a case of ‘same old’ for the west London side.
And yet Chelsea have now risen to the dizzying heights of 11th following victories at Craven Cottage and Turf Moor, with the Blues scoring six goals in those two wins. Both victories have come in games Cole Palmer has started, and that can’t be a coincidence. Factor in the 1-0 Carabao Cup success over Brighton and Palmer has started Chelsea’s last three victories, and three of their five overall. Their win ratio rises from 29% to 100% with Palmer in the starting XI.
The west London side made no secret of their desire to bring in another right winger over the summer. Even after a hefty recruitment drive, the Blues were eager on securing another player who could operate on the right of the attack. Rayan Cherki and Michael Olise were both linked with Stamford Bridge switches, the latter ultimately signing a new deal with Crystal Palace, before Chelsea made their move for Manchester City youth academy graduate Palmer.
City’s decision to cash in on the 21-year-old was a surprise in itself. Palmer himself was set for a breakout year at the Etihad Stadium, with the youngster looking to capitalise upon Riyad Mahrez’s departure to garner more playing time this season. Palmer came off the bench to net in the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal, and scored in the UEFA Super Cup success over Sevilla, and it felt as though he’d really establish himself as a key man under Pep Guardiola this season.
On deadline day, though, Chelsea confirmed Palmer’s signing for a rumoured £40m. The deal was criticised by those wondering why City were prepared to sell Palmer and why Chelsea were willing to spend big on a player with limited league minutes. That isn’t to say the midfielder isn’t a talented individual, but he registered just 359 minutes of gametime in the Premier League last season as City secured the title.
However, any doubters about Palmer and the reasoning behind Chelsea’s decision to spend big on the player are quickly being silenced. On his second league start for the Blues, Palmer bagged Chelsea’s second shortly after the restart, and turned provider for Nicolas Jackson with 15 minutes to play at Turf Moor from respective returns of three shots and two key passes. Left-footed, too, Palmer does prefer to cut inside from the right to help pry defences apart, and this will be key for the club in the long run.
It’s a route to goal that is proving effective with Palmer ranking top for key passes per 90 (2.6) of all Chelsea players in the Premier League this season. What’s more, only Nicolas Jackson (3.2) is averaging more shots per 90 than the former City star (3) of all Blues players in England’s top tier this term, with every shot coming with Palmer’s left foot. For a Chelsea side that largely focusses their attacks down the right – only Sheffield United (46%) attack down their right flank more frequently than Chelsea (43%) in the Premier League this season – having a player of the summer arrival’s calibre and style is proving a benefit.
This will become all the more apparent once Chelsea recover Malo Gusto, but more importantly, Reece James. The Blues skipper is one who’d maximise Palmer’s willingness to cut infield to provide an offensive outlet on the overlap when the latter is in possession. With Raheem Sterling shining on the opposite wing, and Mykhailo Mudryk beginning to show just why Chelsea spent big to secure his services back in January, their attack is really starting to click into gear.
Chelsea’s inability to put the ball in the back of the net last season really set them back, but with Mauricio Pochettino moving to a four-man backline, they look far more fluid going forward. And with the Blues having scored six league goals across Palmer’s two starts following his signing from City, it’s not by chance that the Blues forward line has been far more effective with their deadline day arrival featuring from the right.